VOLUNTEERS have stepped up to help struggling families in Weymouth and Portland.

The Bridge is a free, lunchtime community group run by Little-moor resident Sarah Millner, who became concerned over the increasing numbers of locals relying on food banks.

She told the Echo that not enough is done for those facing or living in poverty in the borough.

The expanding group meets every Thursday at The Prayer House on Newstead Road to chat and build friendships before eating lunch together between 11.30am and 1pm.

There is a safe play area for babies and children with seasonal crafts and activities for toddlers.

Games and challenges are also provided for older children during the school holidays.

Sarah, 26, said: “The Bridge is a free lunchtime community group run by a team of volunteers who have a passion to see families thrive.

“I got together with Frances Childs when we became aware of the number of families who struggle to make ends meet and keep their heads above water in the current financial climate.

“Their hope is that it will become a place where families can come to meet people who care and want to support them, without the expectation of payment or commitment.”

She added: “So many people are using food banks at the moment and that is really alarming – not to mention the number of people being put into bed and breakfast accommodation to avoid homelessness.”

The group has even made links with local charities and government-funded organisations so that contact information is on hand should anyone be looking for help beyond family and friends.

Sarah added: “From experience, the team knows the value of having support in the early years of starting a family and they want to make it easier for people who may not have a support network, or who feel alone.”

The free lunch began in February and has gone from strength to strength – with around eight families attending during the holidays.

Volunteer Mandy Campling said: “I help greet people to the group every week. It is fantastic – my children have come along when they haven’t been at school.

“I have gone through domestic violence in the past so this is a great support network for me.

“It is great that people of the community are helping others who might be struggling.”

They also run a toddler group ‘Little Blessings’ every Wednes-day, which attracts around 75 members.

There is free parking on site, and easy access to the numbers 1, 3 and 8 bus routes.